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Four Things to Consider Before Finishing Off Your Attic

For homes with large, unfinished attic spaces, the idea of turning that space into useable square footage can be enticing. Not only are you able to recoup most of your investment from an attic remodel, but also, it instantaneously adds additional room. This often prevents growing families from needing to move or to build a new home. However, before jumping in head first, there are a handful of things that you’ll want to consider.

Give Some Thought to These Four Things

Many attics are built in a way that’s conducive to finishing them off, but you won’t know that this is the case until you do some further investigation. Here are some important things to think about before getting too far along in the process.

1. Consider Your Home Value

The first thing to think about is your home’s current value and the neighborhood or market in which you live. There’s such a thing as adding too much value to a home – and you want to avoid doing this. Here’s an example:

Let’s say that your home’s in a small neighborhood that consists of 20 homes. Though they all look and feel different, they’re essentially the same. They have three or four bedrooms with two or three baths. Lot sizes are all similar, features are virtually the same, and the homes range from $200,000-$215,000. By adding an attic bedroom, it may appear that you’re adding $40,000 in value to a home that was previously worth $215,000 – but are you really?

You may think your home will be worth $255,000 when the renovation’s complete, but you aren’t thinking about it from a potential buyer’s perspective. The home may be worth that amount in a neighborhood where surrounding homes are $230,000-$275,000, but you’re going to find it challenging to ask buyers to pay a $40,000-$50,000 premium in your current neighborhood (even with the upgrades and additional square footage).

That’s just the way the market works. Your home’s value is often limited (or supported) by the comparable properties in your area. This is something to think about if much of the motivation behind refinishing your attic is based on the premise that you’ll recoup the value on the backend.

2. Don’t Forget the Stairs

Practically speaking, one of the biggest challenges often involves the addition of a staircase. You may have plenty of room in the attic itself, but how are you going to access it? While building codes differ from municipality to municipality, the basics are typically the same everywhere.

According to Bob Vila, a popular home improvement blog, “Code stipulates that stairways must be 36 inches wide (or wider), with treads that are 9.5 inches deep (or deeper). The maximum rise from one tread to the next is 7-3/4 inches, and head clearance has to meet or exceed 80 inches. Winding stairs are generally permissible, though some restrictions apply.”

3. Think About Electrical, HVAC, and Plumbing

Attics are typically designed for storage, not living. This means that your home’s systems likely don’t reach up into the attic. As a result, you need to consider how you’re going to extend them to allow for electricity, plumbing, and HVAC.

A licensed electrician can help you determine whether your existing infrastructure is conducive to adding additional breakers. If it is, this process is as simple as running additional wires. If not, you may have to make more significant changes.

If possible, you should locate the new bathroom close to the home’s main stack. This makes the process of running pipes easier and less invasive. As far as HVAC goes, a specialist should be able to let you know whether or not your forced air blower can move enough air into the new space. If not, you’ll have to get a little creative.

Your existing systems will often dictate the feasibility of your attic renovation plans, so it’s best to have licensed contractors come out and survey the situation before getting too far along in the process.

4. Pay Attention to Insulation

Insulation is obviously crucial when it comes to transforming attic space into living space. Without proper insulation, the room will be unbearably hot or cold, depending on the season. You should use at least R-30 insulation for the ceiling and R-13 for the walls, but your needs could vary depending on property-specific circumstances.

While insulation may seem like a small portion of the project, it’s one of those things that makes or breaks a good remodel project. Poor insulation will make this “living space” unlivable, while effective insulation allows you to enjoy your renovation as it was designed.

The ROI of an Attic Remodel

If everything adds up, and it looks like remodeling your attic into useable square footage is both possible and practical, congratulations! Not every homeowner is so fortunate. While the average cost of remodeling an attic and turning it into a bedroom is $51,696, you can expect to recoup 77 percent – or almost $40,000 – in added value (these numbers are calculated by taking 15-foot-by-15-foot attic bedroom remodels with a single bathroom).

According to the annual Cost vs. Value Report, an attic remodel is the second most valuable remodel in which you can invest, coming in just behind a minor kitchen remodel (79.3 percent ROI). It should also be noted that it’s cheaper and higher returning than a basement remodel.

Contact Affordable Insulation Today

At Affordable Insulation of Oklahoma, we believe that every family has the right to be comfortable in their own home. Because an attic is the highest point in a home –and heat travels upward – it’s critical that you pay careful attention to the insulation that goes into protecting your attic. Whether you currently have an empty attic or are considering a remodel, your home could benefit directly from better insulation.

For a free energy assessment – or for any questions you have related to the insulation of your home – please don’t hesitate to contact us today. We’d be happy to provide you with all of the information that you’ll need to make an educated decision.